UNRWA Commissioner General says violence against women and girls undermines the rights and development of Palestine refugees

25 November 2016
UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Michelle Hamers

Today marks the global start of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign on Violence against women (VAW). In support of the UN Secretary General’s UNiTE Campaign as well as the commitments made in the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 5 on Gender Equality, UNRWA joins efforts of the rest of the United Nations and the world in affirming that our ultimate goal to eliminate violence against women and girls is indeed possible. It is a vital necessity. 

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, has said that “every act or form of violence against women and girls is an act of violence against humanity. It undermines their rights, dignity and human potential”. Speaking on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, he said “such violence is the worst manifestation of gender-based discrimination and a particularly appalling abuse of international human rights”.

According to the latest figures from UN Women, some 35 per cent of women and girls worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives.  Palestine refugee women and girls are, unfortunately, not immune.

The contexts in which UNRWA operates – marked by so many forms of conflict - makes protecting women and girls from Gender Based Violence (GBV) particularly challenging. Since 2011, UNRWA has significantly increased its ability to identify instances of violence against women and girls and record numbers of survivors of abuse. The Agency has also improved its response capacity in all its fields of operations, focusing on prevention and on timely and adequate assistance to victims of violence.

 “While I am proud of the progress achieved by UNRWA in recent years in responding to violence against women and girls, I am very clear that far more has to be done. I want to underscore my personal commitment, and that of all of us in UNRWA, to protecting Palestine refugee women and girls from any form of violence.”

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.